Rabbi Yitzchok Etshalom
Talmud Torah 1:13
13: A woman who studied Torah receives a [Heavenly] reward but not
as much as the reward of a man [who studies], because she is not
commanded [to study]. And anybody who does something which they
are not commanded, their reward is not the same as the reward of
the one who is commanded and fulfills [the Mitzva], rather it is
less. Even though she merits reward, the Rabbis commanded that a
man not teach his daughter Torah. Because most women's cognitive
skills are not directed towards proper learning and they corrupt
the words of Torah into nonsense, according to their weak
understanding. The Rabbis said: "Anyone who teaches his daughter
Torah, it is as if he taught her *tiflut* (silliness,
licentiousness). This only refers to *Torah sheba'al peh* (The
oral tradition); but regarding *Torah shebikhtav* (Scripture), he
should not teach her, but if he does, it is not considered as if
he taught her *tiflut*.
Q1: Why is it the case that one who is commanded receives a
greater reward for fulfilling a Mitzva than one who does it
SR (Sandy Riemer): One who has been commanded
to perform a mitzvah is influenced by his "yetzer harah" to *not*
do the mitzvah. Therefore, if one is commanded, the mitzvah then
becomes more difficult to perform than one who is not commanded
to perform the mitzvah yet does it for some altruistic motive.
Since the commanded person now must overcome his/her "yetzer
harah" in order to perform the commandment, the rewards are
EF (Ezra Frazer): The reason that one who is
commanded to do something receives a greater reward can be
understood by looking at the average student who is serious about
Torah study. He may voluntarily study in his free time, but if
his teacher is absent in school he'll get excited about having a
free period. When learning is optional, he feels relaxed about
it, because he can do it at his own leisure. If has has free
time, he will this be inclined to use it learning. However, if
he feels pressured that he must be learning (like in school), he
will feel somewhat burdened by it, and welcome every opportunity
to avoid it.
Women, who have no pressure to study Torah, get a more posiitve
feeling towards it. As long as they have a lot of free time,
they are very willing to spend it learning. Men, who constantly
have the pressure of knowing that they must learn, instinctively
look for eveyry excuse not to learn. For a man to overcome this
negative tendency is difficult, so if he does he gets a bigger
reward than a woman, who never had to deal with the pressure of
feeling required to learn Torah.
I cite as an example something from my own community, where an
attempt was made to start a shiur for high-school kids. The
girls mostly responded positively, and if they weren't busy, they
would come. The boys made strange excuses of why they wouldn't
be able to come, because they knew that they viewed the shiur as
Q2: Does this prohibition only apply to fathers teaching their
daughters? What about a daughter who wants to learn on her own?
YE (Yitz Etshalom): The language of R
certainly seems to be focussed on the father's teaching his
daughter. As a matter of fact, there is an interesting switch in
his terminology: *Even though she merits reward, the Rabbis
commanded that a man not teach his daughter Torah.* - moving
from her (lesser) reward for study to the Rabbinic injunction
aimed at the father. There doesn't seem to be any problem with a
woman studying of her own volition and motivation.
Q3: Why the distinction between Scripture and oral law?
YE: This distinction is not mentioned in the source sugya (Sota,
3rd chapter); however, R may feel that it is the specifically
legalistic style of learning which is embodied in the oral law
and finds its full realization in *Gemara* (in R's usage of the
term - see previous postings) - which could lead to the misuse of
Torah. Scripture, on the other hand, is more "powerful" in its
presentation and, on a surface level, is not as given to abuse.
(Serious bible students realize, of course, that anything more
than a cursory look at the text raises a plethora of questions;
however, it seems that R is specifically concerned about the type
of student who would NOT delve deeply).
Q4: In Yesodei haTorah at the end of Chapter 4, Rambam explains
that everyone is obligated to pursue "pardes" - physics and
metaphysics. He explicitly obligates men and women in this
pursuit, as it [according to him] is the necessary prerequisite
for fulfilling the Mitzvot of believing/knowing about God,
fearing, loving and unifying God. He also states that everyone
must first be thoroughly familiar with Halakha before studying
Pardes. Clearly, then, women are obligated to study Gemara etc.
in order to be prepared to study Pardes. How can we reconcile
these two rulings?
YE: As noted before, there is no prohibition mentioned in R for a
woman to study Gemara; just for the father to teach his daughter.
Any woman who is sufficiently motivated to properly fulfill the
basic cognitive/emotional Mitzvot related to God (belief, unity,
fear and love) would clearly need, according to R, to immerse
herself in metaphysics. And, as R notes, she would first have to
become something of a Talmidat Chachamim - a Talmudic scholar -
which is, as mentioned, not a problem in R's formulation.
Rambam, Copyright (c) 1999 Project